I’ve owned a Frabill Headquarters Hub Shelter for eight winters now and it goes with me on every ice fishing trip, whether or not I’m certain I’ll use it. For one thing, it packs into a carry-bag that’s only 50 inches long and 10 inches in diameter, so there’s always enough room for it in the pickup box.
More importantly, it allows me to preserve something that’s important to all types of fishing—the ability to socialize with your friends. I’m typically on the ice with two or three regular fishing partners and the 11½- x 6-foot footprint allows us to fish together if we want. Just as often, though, we like to spread out, with or without flip-over shelters, over a point, sunken hump or weedbed. Then, because set-up is a snap, we frequently use the Headquarters simply as a place, with full stand-up headroom, to duck out of the wind to compare notes and maybe boil water for a hot cup of coffee, tea or soup. Either way, it’s a piece of equipment I’ve grown to love and would hate to be without.
If you’re looking at a double-hub like the Headquarters as a primary shelter, be aware that the claim it’ll hold 4 to 6 fishermen is somewhat subjective. If you intend to fit six anglers inside, half of them better be kids. When you’re talking full-grown fishermen with sonar, tackle bags and a camera or two, four is a much more comfortable capacity; five is doable.
Last winter I got to experience using a friend’s insulated Thermal Headquarters shelter on several occasions. The only real difference between his and mine is the three-ply insulated fabric his features. Otherwise, the specs are similar.
The insulation does a couple of things: First, a sunflower or suitcase-style heater warms the interior faster, and the shelter holds heat better. Which means you’ll spend less on propane over the course of an ice fishing season. Just as important, if not more in my mind, is that the insulation dampens wind-whip. On a frozen lake, the wind always seems to be blowing and after a time, annoying fabric-chatter is enough to make my ears ring.
When it comes time to replace what I’ve got, the next one will be the Thermal version for those two reasons alone. And that’s my recommendation to anyone in the market to own one.